People with the most severe sleep apnea had 14% higher fasting blood glucose levels than those without sleep apnea. In people who already had diabetes, greater disturbances in sleep were associated with lower sensitivity to insulin, the hormone that signals cells to take up sugar from the blood.
“Our results reaffirm the need to improve the screening and diagnosis of sleep apnea, both in African Americans and other groups,” Yano says. Past studies have found that many people with sleep apnea don’t know they have the condition.
Treatments for sleep apnea include lifestyle changes and use of a continuous positive air pressure (CPAP) machine. More research is needed to determine if treating sleep apnea and encouraging better sleep patterns can improve blood glucose levels and prevent diabetes in African Americans.